José Guilherme Costa
ETIC — Escola de Tecnologias Inovação e Criação
According to Manuel Lima, humanity tens to use a singular configuration to organize and visualize knowledge. For a long period of time the world believed in a natural hierarchical order of things, called the Great Pyramid of Beings, or Scala Naturae in Latin, where at the top of the pyramid was God, followed by angelical beings, humans, animal, plants, and last minerals. This idea of a pyramid of things was first thought by Aristoteles, but it was later adopted and developed during the Middle Ages. The concept of organizing beings with a pyramid spread in society. It mutated into a shape of a tree, and information started being organized and visualized in this manner. This schematization with a shape of a tree became an import way of communication, having been used in a great variety of systems of knowledge like the Tree of Virtues and Vices, the well-known Genealogical trees, and trees of medieval laws. Organizing information through a tree shaped display became a strong visual metaphor to mankind, because it symbolized their yearning for order, hierarchy, balance, and symmetry. However, by the middle 20th century, it began to emerge a new method of organizing a visualizing knowledge. Since then, the metaphor of a web has been establishing as the primordial method of structuring information, existing today, several typologies of this metaphor to different kinds of content, revealing in this way, the great potential of diversity of this form of information visualization. Are we living in a world with a more direct and immediate access to knowledge? With this metaphor applied to interpersonal communication, arises a new form of interaction. When previously relationships existed mainly from one to one or from top to bottom, nowadays exists from all to all and with an horizontal configuration. Is there today, a more unisonous, educated, and informed collective memory? In theory, organizing, communicating, and visualizing information in form of a web promotes a bigger democratization, efficiency and efficacy of the transmission of knowledge. Is ignorance an obsolete concept? Is it through the metaphor of a web that humanity will rise to a new state of collective wisdom? *Manuel Lima is a Portuguese-American designer, author, and lecturer known for his work in information visualization and visual culture. He is the author of three books translated into several languages. Forbes magazine says "Manuel has helped elevate information visualization to an art form.
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